I’m a bi-vocational pastor, so I work a normal day job, and then after work I go on to care for the needs of my family and that of a local church. I have church meetings to attend, sermons to prepare, calls and email to tend, and so on—so we don't have a lot of “free time” in our household.
So how do we still have family worship throughout all the busyness? We’ve had to make it really simple.
Here are a few of the ways you can include family worship throughout your day—no matter how busy and chaotic your life might be right now.
List those moments during each day when the whole family is together. For us, before I go to my first job I have a little bit of time with my oldest sons. We also have a bedtime routine with our young children, so we carve out 5-10 minutes before putting them to bed where we can have family worship.
Some families may find mealtime to be more appropriate—it doesn’t usually work for us. Since I’m not home at the same time every night, that ruined our consistency and more often than not, our desire to have family worship together would never turn into a habit. So, we pushed our family worship time back to just before bedtime. That way, on most nights I am able to be dad and shepherd my family as needed.
Simplify what you do in those brief, but daily moments. In the morning, I only go through a short Bible story with my kids. Then we briefly talk about it, and then I’m off to work. In the evening before bedtime, we use the Gloria Patri, Doxology, and Trisagion for our routine songs, then we’ll finish with the Lord's Prayer every night. If we have time we'll also pray for other needs at that time and have our kids pray too, but sometimes we’re just in survival mode. Being a parent and working multiple jobs is hard work.
It’s those subtle and ordinary practices informed by the truths of Scripture and cultivated as a gathered people that stick with us and our children the most. In her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren writes:
For most of history the majority of believers could not read, so Christian worship intentionally taught the gospel in preliterate ways. But even now, each of us, whether first graders or physics professors, still learn the gospel in preliterate ways. We absorb it. We learn what we believe, as James K. A. Smith says, from our “body up.” We have to taste and see that God is good if we are ever going to really believe it.
Thankfully God provides us with food and drink for both body and soul by bringing us into the divine service of Word and Sacrament, of hearing the gospel preached from the pulpit and feasting on a sacred meal that nourishes us—we truly taste and see that God is indeed good.
When we sing in the public assembly, when we recite those old words found in the Apostles’ Creed, when we pray “Our Father, who art in heaven…” as our Lord instructed his first disciples, we enter into a kind of discipleship where we are sprinkled from head to toe in a covenant renewal ceremony of re-enchantment; where our belief is renewed and the Lord answers the prayers of his people, “Lord, help our unbelief!”
Family worship and catechetical instruction is an important aspect of the Christian life, but it is not the only aspect. God has promised to give us grace through the ordained, objective means that he has provided for us through preaching, communion, and baptism.
It’s through those foundational and primary means that he enables parents to raise their children up in the faith, offering them the same “grace and peace” (Gal. 1:3) that they have received from God the Father to their own children. That is essential.
If we do not readily extend forgiveness and regularly show our children our need for forgiveness in the home, then we will fail to pass on more than distant words to them. What I’m arguing for here is more than rote memorization in the home.
Raise your children up in a safe place where they are exposed to parents who love and care—who forgive and ask for forgiveness—and don’t be overly concerned with “getting it right” or running through a daily spiritual checklist.
That would be to miss the freedom that you have in Christ and the power we have in trusting in the very promise of God to be for us and our children (Acts 2:39).
Adapted from Nicholas Davis, “When We Fail At Family Worship,” Modern Reformation Nov/Dec 2017. Used by Permission.
I’ll never forget the day Dad and I put our wings and claws to rest.